BY LISA RATHKE
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- General Mills' announcement that it will start labeling products that contain genetically modified ingredients to comply with a Vermont law shows food companies might be throwing in the towel, even as they hold out hope Congress will find a national solution.
Tiny Vermont is the first state to require such labeling, effective July 1. Its fellow New England states of Maine and Connecticut have passed laws that require such labeling if other nearby states put one into effect.
The U.S. Senate voted 48-49 Friday against a bill that would have blocked such state laws.
The food industry is holding out hope that Congress will prevent states from requiring such labeling. Some companies say they plan to follow Vermont's law, while others are considering pulling their products from the small state.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association has called for a national solution instead of what it says is a patchwork of confusing and costly state labeling laws. It has also challenged Vermont's law in federal court, asking that the law be blocked until the case is resolved. That request was denied and is on appeal.
General Mills' "announcement is the latest example of how Vermont's looming labeling mandate is a serious problem for businesses," the association said in a statement. "Food companies are being forced to make decisions on how to comply and having to spend millions of dollars. One small state's law is setting labeling standards for consumers across the country."
Nestle supports the mandatory informed disclosure of the presence of GMO ingredients in food and beverages and believes it's best done by a uniform national approach, but will abide by state laws if they come into effect, according to spokeswoman Edie Burge.
Food giant General Mills Inc. said Friday it will start nationwide labeling on products that contain genetically modified ingredients, saying it's not practical to do so for just one state. Campbell Soup Co. is also printing new national labels in preparation for Vermont's law, although it opposes state-by-state labeling requirements.
"This shows that the United States has the capacity to join the 64 other countries that already require GMO labeling," Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Friday. "I urge other companies to follow the lead of General Mills and extend this right to their customers nationwide as well."
Other companies are weighing their options.
Herr Foods Inc., a midsize snack food company based in Philadelphia, is considering pulling its products from Vermont if the law takes effect, said Daryl Thomas, senior vice president for sales and marketing.
"Just the logistics, the expense are horrendous," he said.
"You'd have to duplicate that if any state went along with its own regulations and then multiple it again, again, and again times however many other states chose to have their own requirements," he said.
In addition, he said, ensuring the differently labeled products are sorted and distributed correctly would be difficult and costly, he said.
The food industry argues those costs will be passed to the consumer, and some independent Vermont retailers are worried how it could affect their bottom line.
"As a retailer, there's all sorts of ways that this could backfire on us as a state, and a small independent guy like myself if I've got nothing on my shelves or I've got limited (supply) and my competitors have no problem with the staying power, we're done," said Ray Bouffard, owner of Georgia Market in Georgia, Vermont.
The Food and Drug Administration says GMOs, which can include food made from seeds that were engineered in laboratories to have certain traits, are safe, but labeling advocates say not enough research has been done and they have a right to know what's in their food. They also say the use of GMOs has led to big increases in herbicide use.
A 2014 Associated Press-GfK poll found that 66 percent of Americans supported labeling of genetically modified food.
Leaders of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee said they are committed to finding a compromise.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, chairman of committee, has already put forth a compromise that "will ensure consumer access to biotech information and affordable food while protecting farmers and manufacturers," spokeswoman Sarah Little said Friday.
The top Democrat on the committee, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, said that while several of her proposals have not been accepted, she still believes "we need and can achieve a policy that creates a uniform national system of disclosure ... in a way that has common sense and works for everybody," she said.
1. U.S. acceptance of coexistence as the only alternative to atomic war.
2. U.S. willingness to capitulate in preference to engaging in atomic war.
3. Develop the illusion that total disarmament of the United States would be a demonstration of moral strength.
4. Permit free trade between all nations regardless of Communist affiliation and regardless of whether or not items could be used for war.
5. Extension of long-term loans to Russia and Soviet satellites.
6. Provide American aid to all nations regardless of Communist domination.
7. Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the U.N.
8. Set up East and West Germany as separate states in spite of Khrushchev's promise in 1955 to settle the German question by free elections under supervision of the U.N.
9. Prolong the conferences to ban atomic tests because the United States has agreed to suspend tests as long as negotiations are in progress.
10. Allow all Soviet satellites individual representation in the U.N.
11. Promote the U.N. as the only hope for mankind. If its charter is rewritten, demand that it be set up as a one-world government with its own independent armed forces. (Some Communist leaders believe the world can be taken over as easily by the U.N. as by Moscow. Sometimes these two centers compete with each other as they are now doing in the Congo.)
12. Resist any attempt to outlaw the Communist Party.
13. Do away with all loyalty oaths.
14. Continue giving Russia access to the U.S. Patent Office.
15. Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.
16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions by claiming their activities violate civil rights.
17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers' associations. Put the party line in textbooks.
18. Gain control of all student newspapers.
19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.
20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, policymaking positions.
21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.
22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to "eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms."
23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. "Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art."
24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them "censorship" and a violation of free speech and free press.
25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.
26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as "normal, natural, healthy."
27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with "social" religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a "religious crutch."
28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of "separation of church and state."
29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between nations on a worldwide basis.
30. Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the "common man."
31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of the "big picture." Give more emphasis to Russian history since the Communists took over.
32. Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture--education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc.
33. Eliminate all laws or procedures which interfere with the operation of the Communist apparatus.
34. Eliminate the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
35. Discredit and eventually dismantle the FBI.
36. Infiltrate and gain control of more unions.
37. Infiltrate and gain control of big business.
38. Transfer some of the powers of arrest from the police to social agencies. Treat all behavioral problems as psychiatric disorders which no one but psychiatrists can understand.
39. Dominate the psychiatric profession and use mental health laws as a means of gaining coercive control over those who oppose Communist goals.
40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce.
41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.
42. Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition; that students and special-interest groups should rise up and use united force to solve economic, political or social problems.
43. Overthrow all colonial governments before native populations are ready for self-government.
44. Internationalize the Panama Canal.
45. Repeal the Connally reservation so the United States cannot prevent the World Court from seizing jurisdiction over nations and individuals alike.